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Member artist response for GPAG's Present Tense reaches historic high

One hundred and twenty contributors provided individual pieces for the gallery’s annual Present Tense show, which opened on Dec. 2 with a packed public reception. 
A colourful selection of the artists who contributed to the Present Tense exhibition assembled on Dec. 2.

A record number of artists are featured in a newly opened exhibition of members’ artwork at the Gibsons Public Art Gallery. One hundred and twenty contributors provided individual pieces for the gallery’s annual Present Tense show, which opened on Dec. 2 with a packed public reception. 

The submissions span a vast breadth of disciplines — from large-scale portraiture (Louise McKelvie’s acrylic Head of a Scholar captures its subject in a moment of ponderous meditation) to felted painting (Morganser Mother + Chicks by Joan Bech exudes literal and maternal warmth) to recycled metal (the lizard-like body of Alan Townsend’s Bicephaly [two headed] is fashioned from steel rebar, supporting a wrench-jawed maw). 

Leslie Thomson, president of the gallery’s board of directors, credited members of its hanging committee for maximizing the use of space when arranging the numerous artworks. Volunteers Stewart Stinson, Ezmina Samaroo, Kim Lafave and Myron Jones worked with stalwart reception volunteer Mary Cavanagh to highlight harmony between pieces. 

“It’s a record!” said Thomson, noting the number of participating artists surpassed any previous year. “Congratulations to all.” 

Many of the works reflect the natural environment of the Sunshine Coast. Dennis Fafard’s cottonwood sculpture Relic #3 evokes brine-shaped driftwood, smoothed and shaped into a porous vessel whose apertures are at once endings and beginnings. Sailing for Point Atkinson, an oil by Annelies Ravensbergen, dreamily depicts the Coast’s snow-capped peaks beyond the emerald slopes of West Vancouver; a solitary sloop, its sails billowing, skips past bulk carriers at anchor. Judy Heyer’s Making a Splash uses acrylics to show two bathers, awash in the copper light of a summer afternoon, stepping gingerly from a pebbled shore into the sun-mottled sea. 

Sometimes coastal themes are sublimated through a highly-stylized lens, as with Rose Stardust’s Something, Something, Something Coastal. Stardust paints with acrylic on wood panel, employing formline influences to blend tidewater and the heavens; an orca dives between the firmaments. The impossibly precipitous slopes of Rebecca Evermon’s The Mountain Experience echo landscapes by Lawren Harris, simultaneously fantastic and familiar. Hidden Faces, an acrylic abstract by Sheri Peters, summons to mind the peoples who endow landscape with meaning and ceremony. 

Apart from a couple of instances (Sheila Weaver’s chipper squirrel portrait Here I Come and Allie Bartlett’s image of clawed birchbark in The Bear), photographers forgo literalism. Dean Van’t Schip uses intentional camera movement to render Autumn Snowfall, capturing liminality on an aluminum substrate. Rafael Scholermann’s Blue Nebulous is a photo printed on watercolour paper that itself reflects a world contorted by aqueous reflections. 

The show includes provocative humour, as in Jim Christy’s collage Lost Claus (a cherubic St. Nicholas stumbles through a lush jungle) or Coralie Swaney’s anthropomorphic mixed media sculptures Something Fishy. Other pieces, like Tam Harrington’s assemblage of silver, tin and steel (Fleurs En Métal) demand sober-minded reflection. 

Thomson also announced a new exhibition space that will be officially inaugurated in 2024. A former meeting room has been named after Gibsons resident Joe Peters, who died in 2022 and left a portion of his estate to the gallery. Joe’s Lounge will be used for salon-style member exhibitions throughout the year, operating on a first-served basis. 

The Present Tense exhibition remains on display at the Gibsons Public Art Gallery until Dec. 23.